Friday, 12 February 2016

On to South Carolina for the Republican race

In the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday there has been a bit of flux in the polls for the next state in the Republican contest - South Carolina. As expected, the candidate with the best outcome from NH - Ohio Governor John Kasich - has got a significant bounce from his second place there - an eight point jump, largely at the expense of the candidates who have left the contest.

The latest poll, by the Augusta Chronicle, sees Donald Trump still with a commanding lead. In second place is Ted Cruz, followed by Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Kasich. But Kasich has jumped to 9% from just 1% of voters who said they would back him in the last published poll by Marist for the Wall Street Journal and NBC. The only other candidate still in the contest, Ben Carson, trails in sixth.

The figures in full (all comparisons are with the Marist poll):

Trump 36 (no change)
Cruz 20 (no change)
Rubio 15 (+1)
Bush 11 (+2)
Kasich 9 (+8)
Carson 5 (-3)

So Donald Trump looks on course for another big win - confirming his status as the front runner - and Ted Cruz will cement his standing as the main challenger. But the race is tightening for third place between the three candidates vying for 'establishment' front runner status. My guess is that whoever ends up with third spot next Tuesday will be seen as secure in the contest for a few weeks to come.

But if Marco Rubio fails to get that third spot then he will come under huge pressure to withdraw. His campaign set out a 3-2-1 strategy a couple of weeks ago - aiming for 3rd in Iowa, 2nd in New Hampshire and a win in South Carolina. He failed by just a few thousand votes to get the second place he wanted in New Hampshire but has put a huge effort into South Carolina. More so than any of the others, if he fails to live up to expectations then he may be seen as a busted flush.

With his huge organisation and PAC money, Jeb Bush will survive anything but a cataclysmic performance in South Carolina. Kasich looks like he will do okay, but that is probably not good enough for a candidate short on money. Third place will keep him in the hunt. Fourth or lower might spell the end.

UPDATE - CBS South Carolina GOP race poll
Trump 42%
Cruz 20%
Rubio 15%
Kasich 9%
Bush 6%

So Trump has picked up 6 points, putting him even further ahead, almost exclusively at the expense of Jeb! Bush.

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